Guest Blog by Dan Byrne, Logistics Coordinator at SONY Australia

We all know that retail sectors of the economy are getting killed by extraordinarily high employee turnover.

Maybe—just maybe—it’s because we’ve been giving too much importance to the wrong attributes when we’re hiring. Experience and skill are important. But character counts, too.

Unless staff members are grounded by strong character—and unless employers consistently reinforce staff members who demonstrate good character—the retail sector will remain trapped on a turnover carousel that spins faster and faster.

My employer, Sony Australia, has built a strong, high-performing team that reflects the importance the company places on character. The strategy pays off in stronger customer relationships as well as reduction of those staggering turnover costs.

Bloomberg estimates that turnover in the retail sector runs about 5 percent a month, and turnover is an even bigger problem in the logistics and call-center operations that support retailers. In the U.S. logistics industry, one expert says turnover rates of 100 percent a year are common. Call centers generally post turnover rates of at least 30 percent annually, reports one careful study.

Turnover has become a big headache that distracts managers from their focus on sales growth. And turnover represents a shockingly big cost. Bloomberg estimates that retail companies need to spend about $3,400 to fill a single vacancy in a low-level position. Multiply that by hundreds of openings, and the cost becomes a noticeable drag on shareholder return. Sony Australia is winning the battle with its focus on character.


Here are six lessons I’ve learned during my two years with the company, doing my part in the delivery of Sony technology and entertainment products to the Asia Pacific region:

Good personal character builds a happy workforce

A staff with a good attitude reflects positively on a business in its markets and in its communities. That, in turn, draws clients who want to begin or build a working relationship with happy people. And a happy staff attracts happy applicants, setting a virtuous cycle into motion.

Good character builds good workplace relationships

The workday isn’t non-stop fun for our team. Our work culture at Sony Australia is this: Get the job done. We have fun doing it, but we have our serious moments. Once the pressure of the deadline is past, we have some fun. My daily interactions with my co-workers, whether we’re solving an urgent issue or taking a moment for some fun, create my happiness at work.

Good character leads to good results

Employees who have great expertise and experience but bad interpersonal skills ultimately won’t contribute anything to the team. The people with the right character most often do the most outstanding work. They are responsible, dependable and accept the consequences of their words and actions.

Good character in individuals builds strong teams

Successful companies hire not only for the job but for the team. They consider what a new employee will do to create a happier environment. Greatness resides within all of us, and greatness often finds its expression through the team.

All sorts of things happen during the workday that require my active participation — or even my active control — to ensure the best outcome for the business. There isn’t a playbook that details my response. The company and my fellow employees depend on my focus, my passion, my character and my good sense to come up with good solutions.

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Good character needs consistent reinforcement

One of the most important elements of a character-driven organization is an effective recognition and rewards program. We use YouEarnedIt, a cool system that allows peers to recognized the accomplishments of their co-workers in something close to real time. It ensures that recognition is part of our day-to-day culture. Because the rewards provided by the YouEarnedIt program are personal and can be customized, they are particularly powerful as an incentive. The values of the recognition program now run deep in the organization’s DNA.

Team members aren’t driven by the desire to earn points in the recognition program. They simply do the right thing. Recognition, whether it’s the acknowledgment of a co-worker through YouEarnedIt or the confidence of a supervisor, goes a long way to building a focused, motivated team.

Good character creates vision

Employees who see futures for themselves are less likely to leave. Sony Australia provides flexibility for employees who seek to deepen their skills with further training, and the flexibility has been profoundly motivating for me. A promotion eight months after I was hired provided proof that I have opportunities to grow in this business. I can’t help noticing that the people around me who are going places with the company unfailingly are motivated by vision for their future.

Great teams focused on the organizational mission aren’t the best way to achieve great results — they are the only way to get there. And if great teams dramatically reduce turnover while they achieve great results, will anyone complain?

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